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Hear, hear! is the correct terminology
Apr 24, 2014
“The government seems to believe, as do many critics and pundits, that the CBC must change if it is to survive. Here, here!”
The above quotation is from a Free Press editorial of April 14, 2014.
How sad to see such a blatant usage error in a once-proud newspaper. Sadder still is that this mistake was in an editorial, because editorials aren’t written by novice journalists, but are the work of senior writers and/or editors.
Although many people do use here in this way, the correct terminology is, “Hear! Hear!” or, “Hear, hear!”
According to Oxford, the phrase is shortened from, “Hear him, hear him,” which is itself an abbreviated form of, “Hear all ye good people. Hear what the speaker says.”
This is OED’s definition: “An exclamation to call attention to a speaker’s words, and hence, a regular form of cheering.”
“Hear him. Hear him,” has been heard in the British Houses of Parliament since the late 17th century. The shorter, “Hear! Hear!” was already common usage by the late 18th century. Written references appear as early as 1688 in Debates in Parliament.
Although this expression was born in parliament, it also occurs in both poetry and fiction.
In Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) wrote: “O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being/... /Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!”
In The Hobbit, when Bilbo and the dwarfs hid from Smaug in the rock-chamber that once was a guardroom, the dwarf, Thorin, said, “ ‘We can go no further today.’
“‘Hear, hear!’ cried Bilbo, and flung himself on the ground.”
That an eminent Oxford English language professor and scholar such as J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) should use hear and not here, ought to settle arguments regarding which word is correct once and for all.
Many sources back up Tolkien.
The Oxford English Reference Dictionary says: “Hear! Hear! — interjection expressing agreement (especially with something said in a speech).”
The Oxford Canadian Dictionary says the same — word for word.
New English Dictionary, Oldham of London, says: “Hear! Hear! Listen! A form of applause or ironical approval.”
Nelson Canadian: “Idiom. Hear, hear. Used to express approval.”
Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary: “Hear, hear! An exclamation of approval from the hearers of a speech.”
Collier’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary: “To listen, or harken, often used in the imperative ‘hear, hear!’ in applauding a speaker, as in a parliamentary assembly.”
The Bible has been suggested as the origin of this expression. Indeed, there are many biblical passages exhorting people to hear, but those hears aren’t used in the way discussed above. They mostly implore people to, “Hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4), or to recognize God as Lord: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Hearken (harken), which means, “to listen,” is used the same way biblically: “Hearken now unto my voice” (Exodus 18:19).
Hear entered Old English as hyran/heran (to hear). It originated in the Old Frisian hera/hora, and the Icelandic heyra, both of which mean hear.